Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Permanent Secretary, Sir Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, has urged Utako market traders and shop owners to return to the negotiation table they earlier walked out from and continue on the path of peace in finding lasting solution to the disputed market upgrading exercise, which has pitched the two parties against each other.
Ohaa, who made this call during a meeting with the leadership of National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) FCT chapter repeatedly assured them that no one would shortchange them by taking their shops away unduly in the course of upgrading the Utako market.
The traders had a day earlier before the meeting stormed the FCTA Secretariat, protesting planned upgrading of the market by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), alleging a plot to take the shops away from them after completion of the remodeling, during which the Permanent Secretary had called them for the meeting.
Blaming the traders for pulling out of the meeting halfway, Ohaa charged them to bring all their grievances with an open mind to discuss as stakeholders in the Abuja project, but not to insist on having things done their own way.
“Bring your people who are competent so that your interest will be protected. We believe in justice, due process and Nigeria is big enough to accommodate all of us. The developer assured us that no one will lose his shop. Government is a progressive change, and so is life. We are running an open government and our doors are open and I will not superintend over injustice,” Ohaa said.
“This is government of change; let us move Nigeria forward. Abuja is the city of unity; our forefathers agreed it should be a place of unity for everyone”, the Permanent Secretary said, adding that the FCTA would ensure security of lives of all residents, in all places, including the markets, churches and mosques at all times, especially during festive season.
Representative of the Utako market developer, Engr. Rabiu Sa’id while making his remark, reassured the shop owners that they would all get their shops even before commencement of sale of the new shops to the public.
Rabiu also revealed that the remodeling would provide 2100 shops, tripling the existing number of shops in the market in addition to the construction of a multi-level car park that could accommodate 1500 cars.
He said: “No traders will lose his shop. We will spend N67 billion to develop the market, and we have not sold any shop. We will not sell any shop until everybody that has a shop there gets his shop. The issue of shortchanging anyone does not arise at all.”
Chairman, Utako market Traders Association, Austin Onwuamado, who expressed happiness over the meeting, appealed to the Permanent Secretary to ensure that the traders interest is protected by the government during and after the construction exercise, adding that many of them got loans to acquire the shops and the goods in them.
He also appealed to the developer to temporarily halt further development activities on the site to allow them sell during the yuletide season.
However, the Permanent Secretary while speaking in line with Engr. Rabiu, urged the traders not to be selfish, but also consider others’ interests and allow work go on on site, explaining that he had visited the market and observed that business activities and construction work could go on simultaneously.
Idu Jude, Abuja